Archer Secures FAA Certification Basis for its eVTOL Aircraft

By Tom Morrison posted 09-09-2021 02:03 PM


When Archer Aviation revealed the design of its electric air taxi earlier this year, it touted that the aircraft was “designed with certification in mind from the beginning.” Now, the upstart eVTOL developer has achieved a key milestone on that path with the issuance of a G-1 certification basis by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 


The G-1 issue paper spells out the airworthiness and environmental requirements that Archer will need to meet for type certification of its eVTOL aircraft. Archer said it engaged with the FAA’s Center for Emerging Concepts & Innovation and the Los Angeles Aircraft Certification Office to develop the requirements, which are based on the FAA’s Part 23 standards for small airplanes. Archer is now working toward obtaining a G-2 issue paper, which will establish the means of compliance for achieving these requirements.   

According to Archer’s head of certification, Eric Wright, obtaining the G-1 certification basis is “a significant step forward” for the company and the emerging eVTOL industry. Only a handful of other eVTOL developers, notably Joby and Lilium, have announced receipt of a G-1 issue paper or its European equivalent, a Certification Review Item (CRI)-A01. 

Wright joined Archer last year from Piper Aircraft, where he was involved with numerous certification projects including the landmark FAA approval of Emergency Autoland. His extensive previous experience includes time working directly for the FAA as an aircraft certification engineer. 

In an interview with in May, Wright explained that the FAA has established processes and procedures for dealing with new and novel technology, whether autonomous systems like Autoland or the electric propulsion system on Archer’s eVTOL aircraft.  

“We went through a very similar process to bring the FAA up to speed, and then determine those areas that we really needed to dive into, to have them understand where they needed to have their input,” he said. “At the end you collaborate with the FAA and come to an agreement which is essentially a certification contract with how to certify that aircraft or system, and . . . it all rolls up to the Part 23 certification.” 

While eVTOL aircraft are necessarily new and novel, Wright stressed that Archer is taking “a very simplified approach” to design and development of its aircraft to fast-track certification. “We are using standardized aerospace practices, processes, procedures, materials, equipment wherever possible, to really simplify the amount of work that we have to do with the FAA,” he said. 

For example, Archer expects to use commonly accepted practices and materials for building its composite airframes, versus more exotic approaches that carry more certification risk. Likewise, Wright said that Archer is taking “a very practical approach to avionics,” and will leverage already certified avionics equipment to reduce its certification burden. 

“If you focus on areas that are only those areas necessary for regulator involvement, then you can be very efficient with your certification resources, and also keep the FAA involved only where they need to be highly involved,” Wright said. “That that lends itself well to certification, at least in an expeditious manner.” 

Expeditious certification will be key to Archer meeting its ambitious goal of launching commercial air taxi services in 2024 — the same timeline as its much more established rival, Joby. Archer doesn’t expect to fly its full-scale demonstrator aircraft, Maker, until later this year, but is betting that its simplified approach will allow it to catch up to Joby, which has logged more than 1,000 test flights with its eVTOL prototypes. 

Archer’s flight test campaign may get a boost from the U.S. Air Force. The company announced last week that it is partnering with the Air Force’s AFWERX Agility Prime office to explore the technical readiness and suitability of its aircraft for Air Force missions. Under the agreement, Archer will share data from certain of its upcoming flight tests for the purposes of furthering the Air Force’s understanding of Maker’s capabilities, systems and development progression. The Air Force already has similar agreements with several other eVTOL developers, including Joby, Beta Technologies, LIFT, and Kitty Hawk. 

“Through our partnership with the [Air Force], we hope to accelerate our flight testing timeline and demonstrate the technical readiness level and suitability of our aircraft for the United States Air Force’s desired applications,” Archer co-founder and co-CEO Brett Adcock stated in a press release. 

“We’re looking forward to beginning flight tests of Maker in the months ahead as part of this agreement, which will showcase the advancements we’ve made in bringing our eVTOL aircraft to market.” 


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